In the midst of all chaos and drama happening down in Washington, a benchmark will happen this year. November will mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. Throughout this year and next (the year of the anniversary of the “First Thanksgiving”) I’ll be observing the occasion with solo theatre pieces, lectures, and blogs related to the interaction of Anglo-America and the indigenous people of this continent. As an early harbinger, we share the news that tonight at Theater for the New City, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers will be opening their 45th annual Dance Concert and Pow-Pow, which will be running through February 2.
The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers were founded in 1963 by a group of ten Native American men and women, all New Yorkers, who were descended from Mohawk, Hopi, Winnebago and San Blas tribes. The presentation includes dances, stories and traditional music from Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest and Great Plains regions. More than ten distinct tribes will be represented in the performance. Highlights will include storytelling by Matoaka Eagle (Santo Domingo/Chickahominy), a Hoop Dance by Marie Ponce (Cherokee and Seminole) and Nat Cross (Kiowa), a Deer Dance (from the Yaqui Tribes of Southern Arizona) with Ciaran Tufford (Mayan/Cherokee) and Carlos Ponce (Mayan), and various ensemble dances: a Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance (from the Northern Plains people), a Stomp Dance (from the Southeastern tribes), a Shawl Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes),a Fancy Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes) and a Robin Dance and Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois). As the audience enters the theater, they will be serenaded by the Heyna Second Son Singers (various tribes). Bessie-winner Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago) is your emcee and guide. In the final section of the program, the audience will be invited to join in the Round Dance/Friendship Dance (in evening shows) and a Contest Dance (in matinées). After the program, the dancers stay for photographs and to meet the audience. Native American crafts, and jewelry will be sold in the TNC lobby.
The troupe’s appearances benefit college scholarship funds for Native American students. The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Scholarship Fund receives its sole support from events like this concert (it receives no government or corporate contributions), and has bestowed over 350 scholarships to-date. Theater for the New City has been presenting Pow-Wows annually as a two-week event since 1976, with the box office donated to these scholarships.
And here’s a sample of what they do, though video isn’t remotely as special as being in the room. I have attended a couple of these Pow-wows, and trust me, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.